Journalist Networking Secrets from Inside the Wire

March 13, 2012

by Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire/Chicago

The purpose of media relations was beat into my head by my college PR professor — she often said, “The goal is to develop mutually beneficial relationships with the media.”

This definition very closely mirrors the Public Relations Society of America’s new definition of Public Relations. Only she never gave me an exact formula for achieving that goal.

So we decided to share our advice on how Business Wire’s Media Relations Team uses networking events and journalism groups to build relationships with members of the media.  One thing we’ve learned; while starting these relationships may happen in email or social networks, building them will require more face-to-facing and less “Facebooking.”

Luis Guillen

Luis Guillen

Networking Events – The Introduction

Ice breaking is an art form but it is not brain surgery, especially if you do your homework first.  Luis Guillen, our media relations representative for Southern California, says he researches the media people he expects to see at upcoming events beforehand.  “I like sports, so knowing what schools they went to helps me use sports and hometown information to connect.” Luis bonded with several reporters over small hometown familiarities at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Florida this past summer.  This led to new media connections he’s further fostered since returning to Los Angeles.

We’ve been taught to master our elevator pitch, but sometimes you have to take the stairs.  Maryana Bradas, who supervises our entire east coast team of media relations specialists, says:

Maryana Bradas

Engage in casual conversation,” especially when seated at a luncheon table.  “As long as they are relatively talkative your discussion will go all over the place.  Both parties will get a chance to talk about what they do and you can tell if you will have a good fit for further connecting.”

Maryana sits on the Press Club of Cleveland’s Board of Directors and attends the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional and national conventions. “As the conversation winds down you can go for the business card exchange.  That’s a natural progression.”

The Association of Women Journalists – Chicago(AWJ) has only in recent years established an associate level of membership.

Karen Kring

Karen Kring

Karen Kring, past president of the chapter, warns against pitching their members at events:

“Pitching is for when they are on the clock more formally. Turn it around; become the reporter . . . You not only want to know their beat, but what specifically within their beat they are paying most attention to so that you’ll know what kind of information or stories they might be receptive to in the future. If you have a story in mind, ask them if they’d be receptive to your follow up with them later.”

Journalist Groups – Getting in and Standing out

Raschanda Hall

Raschanda Hall

I take an alphabet soup approach to networking.  I’m everywhere, all the time.  NABJ, PCC, SPJ, SABEW, AWJ, ONA etc.  I talk to everybody and give every discussion my properly undivided attention, but to really connect with reporters through journalist organizations you have to put in some work; committee work and chapter board member work.  In these roles your work is selfless, and when done right, you build trust and get more immediate access to editors and reporters who can help you when you need it.  Now, this won’t save you from a front page crisis, but it could get you the heads-up that it’s coming.  An organization I was once involved in turned down sponsorship money from a competitor because they felt the competitor was trying to buy their way into the position I had gained through sweat equity.  In that single act my volunteer efforts paid off.

Dawn Roberts is Managing Partner of KD Communications in Delaware.  She also serves as Associate Member Board Representative

Dawn Roberts

for the National Association of Black JournalistsIt’s a position she is passionate about.  NABJ’s annual convention draws thousands of reporters and hundreds of PR people every year.  Her advice to PR folks: Attend media events so that you have an opportunity to meet journalists in person. And volunteer for a media organization. [It’s] a great way to meet journalists!”


Milwaukee Media Discuss Pitching Tips and Media Relations Best Practices

July 12, 2011

by Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, and Matt Blouin, Account Executive, Business Wire Chicago

Business Wire Chicago recently hosted a luncheon featuring top Milwaukee media at Milwaukee’s Newsroom Pub. Panelists offered tips on creating pitches that generate interest.

(L-R) Mark Maley (Patch.com), Bob Helbig (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), Kathy Mykleby (WISN-TV) & moderator Raschanda Hall (BW Chicago)

Kathy Mykleby, News Anchor/Reporter at WISN-TV, along with Bob Helbig, Deputy Business Editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Mark Maley, Milwaukee Regional Editor for Patch.com shared their insights regarding what it takes for a story pitch to be successful.  Raschanda Hall, Business Wire’s Global Media Relations Manager, moderated the panel.

Great crowd at the Newsroom Pub!

Below are some of the key takeaways from our panelists:

  • Local Content is King.  There is no real answer to “what is news” and no real definition to “newsworthy.”  Being interesting or clever can help.  Tailor the news to a specific area, giving it a local angle.  The ultimate goal is to serve the interests of  readers.  Look at yourself as a reader.
  • Social networking sites provide leads and promotional opportunities.  Reporters are constantly gathering information from Twitter and other social media sites.  They are especially interested in following people and organizations relevant to their jobs. Maley says his regional Patch.com editors rely heavily on Twitter to find and promote stories.  Mykleby says social media is great but we sometimes forget that success lies in building relationships.
  • The higher the resolution the better. Visuals are important to the layout of news stories.  Always make sure to provide quality, high resolution photos.  Even if multimedia is not used right away, it is typically kept on file.  Helbig admits that years ago the Journal Sentinel would never think of using outside photos but now it is much more common.
  • Attachments are okay, but… if you will be attaching something in an email, explain what is in the attachment in the body of the email.  Better yet says Helbig, include the attached press release in the body of the email too.  This serves two purposes.  He can read it right away and forward or print a clean version for filing or sharing with a colleague.
  • Social Media Release or Traditional does not matter — just keep it short.  The format of a press release is less important than the length.  Whenever possible, try to keep the release to no more than one page, and be sure to include contact information.  Mykleby says if she or one of her producers at WISN-TV needs more information they will ask for it.
  • Email is the preferred method of contact if the matter is not urgent.  An occasional follow up phone call is acceptable.  Be straightforward as time is precious and staff may be limited.  Helbig says he gets several dozen emails an hour.  The subject line and first sentence of an email might be all that is viewed.
  • Make sure your website is journalist-friendly.  Have a high quality website with as much information as possible for reporters to access.  Contact information, pictures and company descriptions are all useful. Mykleby says when she’s researching, Google, press releases and company websites all are important.

For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit our events page or follow Business Wire events on Twitter, hashtag #bwevents.


Business Wire Gives Back: BW Staff Goes Back to School to Help Students Find Success

March 24, 2011

Business Wire’s 50th Anniversary celebration this year features the BW Gives Back volunteer program, which affords employees the opportunity to “go to work” in their communities for the educational or charitable organizations that mean the most to them.

Laura Sturaitis addresses the Job Search Boot Camp at St. Thomas University, Miami, FL

Executive Vice President Laura Sturaitis spent last Thursday sharing her time and expertise with job seekers among the students, alumnae and members of the general public at her alma mater St. Thomas University in Miami, FL.  Sturaitis served as a panelist at St. Thomas’s Job Search Boot Camp.  Her presentation, “Developing and Managing Your Professional Online Brand,” sparked a lively discussion.

Business Wire Executive Vice President Laura Sturaitis

Many Business Wire staff, including Laura, regularly speak to college PR and Communications students as guest lecturers on a variety of industry topics from Writing for the Web to What is the Wire?  These talks help students prepare for and excel in our quickly changing industry.

“I try to impart the fact that it’s necessary to apply their wizardry using new technologies and social media to the old-school communication skills they are learning in class – good writing and grammar, identifying and building audiences through meaningful professional relationships and networking, determining the right channels for their well-crafted message and the ability to evaluate the results of their efforts in order to make adjustments,” says Sturaitis. “We always have a lot to talk about and share in class.”

Raschanda Hall, Business Wire’s Chicago-based Global Media Relations Manager, is another staff member who regularly takes her experience and skills back to school. She recently spent the afternoon with a class of Chicago State students.

Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager

Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager

“I love the opportunity to talk to college students studying my craft, ” says Hall.  “Getting just a glimpse of what life is like in the working world of public relations is something these kids can’t get from books….When I’m asked to talk to a local college class about PR, I jump at the chance. I end up getting as much out of it as the students because I’m inspired by the next generation.”

With a company wide goal of 5,000 hours of community service in honor of its 50th Anniversary, Business Wire supports employees’ efforts to volunteer by providing up to 10 hours of paid time off in 2011.


Event Recap: Chicago-area New Media Opportunities

August 16, 2010

by Andrea Gillespie, Account Executive, Business Wire/Chicago

Abbie Sullivan

Abbie Sullivan, Client Services Representative

Successful media relations in Chicago over the last several years has meant both strengthening your news eye to find and pitch the most relevant stories, and finding new places, people and forms of media in which you can get those stories picked up.

While some news holes seems to be shrinking in and around Chicago, many new print and online opportunities have emerged.  These sites are empowering the community to share and own the news.
On Wednesday, August 4th, Business Wire hosted a media breakfast with the editorial management staff behind some of Chicago’s newest media outlets.

Speakers:

Moderator: Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire

Panelists

L-R: Raschanda Hall, Tracy Schmidt, Kyle Leonard, Tara Tesimu

Triblocal/Kyle Leonard, Managing Editor

Triblocal is your spot on the Web to find out about local news and events. The site encourages everyone to become contributors by writing stories, posting events to community calendars and posting photos. All contributions will be posted on the site; however, many are chosen for the weekly print edition and even the Chicago Tribune. Key Takeaways for Communications Professionals:

  • All stories must have a local tie to them.
  • You can post stories, photos and videos.
  • Everyone loves looking at videos on YouTube – hyperlink to your YouTube channel.
  • Leonard prefers you post your story or event to the site first, then email him directly if you think your posting would be a good fit for the print version. He also suggests you follow up via phone.
  • Chicago Tribune editors read Triblocal, and some stories found on Triblocal will make it to the Tribune pages.
  • Pitches should be publicists telling a good news story. Every organization has a “Locks of Love type story,” tell them yours.
  • With events, publicize the event two weeks out, but then further publicize the event after it takes place. Send photo galleries and event highlights, especially if there’s a fundraising goal. Many people will see the event after it takes place and still want to donate to or learn more about your cause

ChicagoNow.com/Tracy Schmidt, Editorial Director

ChicagoNow.com is an online community of Chicago bloggers covering a variety of subjects including Chicago politics, fashion, sports, food, music and events. The site was created by the Chicago Tribune Media group but is run by its own full-time staff. Key takeaways for communication professionals:

  • ChicagoNow wants their bloggers to become part of their communities by writing opinions and information about a specific community. Bloggers are also expected to write as often as possible – which means they need content.
  • When pitching bloggers remember:
    • Keep it relevant to their beat.
    • Including photo galleries is extremely desirable as bloggers love having multiple photo options.
    • Follow the blogger on Twitter and friend them on Facebook.
    • Bloggers have to abide by FTC guidelines, so if you gift a blogger, they will have to disclose that information.
    • Sponsored Posts (or “pay to play”) will be noted as such.
  • ChicagoNow’s bloggers regularly speak on ChicagoNow’s radio show, which airs on WGN on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
  • Follow ChicagoNow on Twitter (@ChicagoNow) and learn about regular River North Tweetups where you can mingle and meet the bloggers.
  • ChicagoNow is always looking for bloggers. They are especially looking for someone who can blog about the Public Relations/Adverting industry and what life is like inside the agency walls.
  • If your client is an expert at something (medicine, finance, real estate, etc.) having them become a blogger is a great way to get publicity and expand customer base.

Patch/ Tara Tesimu, Regional Editor

Patch is an AOL-owned hyperlocal site now covering the Chicagoland areas of La Grange and Skokie (more than 48 additional communities are expected to launch shortly). Patch’s focus is community engagement, and they ask readers to submit their own announcements, photos and reviews. All professional editors, writers, photographers and videographers live in or near the communities they serve. Key takeaways for communication professionals:

  • If you have an event in a Patch community, post it – all calendar events go right up on the site. Two weeks is a good lead time.
  • Provide photo galleries and videos, as they will also be included and are highly encouraged.
  • Reach out to editors via the Patch Facebook sites.
  • All businesses in Patch communities have a profile in the Patch directory, so be sure to fill yours out, and add photos, too.
  • Will cover a business or person outside the community if that person has a community tie.

For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/business-wire-events.

Follow Business Wire events on Twitter! Hash tag #bwevents


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